Only a week ago, I looked at a great example of an Audi S8. Granted, it was not perfect; but, the maintenance and ownership ticked the right boxes for proper consideration. Still, the unique Cashmere Pearl paint coupled with the Ecru interior weren’t most people’s favorite, nor were the C6 Speedline wheels the best match for the design. Does the cost of ownership mean you have to accept a good maintenance history at the expense of the color you want? Not necessarily, as witnessed by this Brilliant Black 2001:
Like more than a few Audi fans, my love affair with the S8 now spans 20 years since it first ‘shoved’ its way into my imagination via the thriller Ronin. It still seems to have set the bar for the most epic and reasonably realistic car chase movies out there, though Bullitt gets more attention and notoriety. That the S8 then came to the U.S. three years later made the dream more of a potential reality. Unfortunately, the S8 stickered for $78,000; approximately $76,000 more than my typical budget for Audis. It might have been geographically closer, but ownership was still a long way off.
Thanks to depreciation in the luxury market, though, over the past two decades these mega-S models have come tantalizingly closer to a price point that I can afford. But I’ve owned cheap executive Audis before a few times, and…well, it’s seldom a great idea. As the addage goes, ‘there’s nothing more expensive than a cheap (insert brand name here)’, and that certainly can apply to the S8. So while it’s very tempting to
briefly consider repeatedly look at that $2,000 example on my local Craigslist, the logical side of me says the one to get is one that’s been gone through. One, perhaps, just like this Cashmere Gray Metallic example:
The Audi C1 may have introduced the United States to the concept of a large, luxurious…well, Volkswagen…but time hasn’t exactly been kind to its legacy. Every time one comes up for sale, immediately stories will emerge of how one caught on fire, or left someone stranded, or was difficult to maintain, or just plain broke and was left to die. From a generation where cars rarely reached 100,000 miles before their untimely death, the 100 was an interesting addition to the range of German cars available to the public, though not particularly memorable for anything innovative, unique, or superlative. Yet they signaled a new direction for Volkswagen’s range, and would go on to be an important part of establishing Audi’s foothold in the market.
The new B-range and C-range cars ostensibly replaced the NSU offerings like the 1967 TT, and Neckarsulm plant formed the backbone of the new production. Because of their visual similarity to the storied Mercedes-Benz W123, many often believe Audi just copied the Daimler design; however, when the W123 rolled out for production, the C1 was nearly done and due to be replaced with the C2 only two years later. Married with Porsche dealerships, the new Audi products sold remarkably well, especially considering their pricing. At nearly $8,000 in the mid-70s, you weren’t far off the established norm of American luxury cars like the Lincoln Continental. But this car didn’t have the features, or the ‘Murican V8, of those hulks. Still, Audi dealers managed to sell an impressive 146,583 before the new C2 5000 took over in the 1977-1978 model year.
Few of these 100LSs have survived the test of time, because for so long they’ve been considered an also-ran. For some time a friend of mine had arguably the nicest one in the United States, and he couldn’t sell it in the mid-single digits.…
As Konrad Adenauer slowly rebuilt West German in the post-War era, the resulting Wirtschaftswunder finally realized the economic prosperity necessary for personal automobile ownership; something that Germany had lagged far behind its rivals in until well after the War. Though they had developed the first motorized carriages and had a reputation as a nation of drivers thanks to some clever Nazi propaganda and the development of the revolutionary highway system, the reality was that in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s Germany was a nation of riders – motorcycles, that is.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the fledgling car companies which were the most successful at first were able to incorporate motorcycle technology into their automobiles. This kept development and production costs down, and in turn meant that the company could bring a small, economical car to market much more inexpensively than a traditional manufacturer. This worked perfectly for BMW, whose Isetta and later 700 models paved the way for the modern car company you know today. But BMW was not the only motorcycle-engine toting company, and though the name isn’t as well-known today, it was NSU Motorenwerke that was the world’s premier motorcycle producer in the 1950s. So, in the late 1950s, NSU put those great engines to work in the back of their new economy car – the Prinz.
The Prinz would go on over the next decade to develop several times. The Prinz I-III models featured continuous upgrades, better driveability, and more power from the twin. But in 1961 the Prinz 4 model took NSU to a much larger market. It featured modern 3-box sedan styling, though it retained the twin drivetrain from the earlier models. The Prinz 1000 model rectified the motivation issues, introducing a new air-cooled 1000cc inline-4. This package was then further developed into a sporting model; the TT.…
It’s often difficult for a second act to follow a legend, and that’s just what the C4 S4 had to do when it launched for U.S. customers in 1992. The Type 44 was already a fan favorite before the 20V version appeared here briefly for the 1991 model year, with wider flared track, bigger brakes, and more power. To answer fans, Audi introduced an even more potent version with the S4; even bigger wheels, lower suspension, and a few more horses were encased in a thoroughly modern shape, yet one that was easily recognizable to fans of the brand. With a reputation for smooth power delivery and still the market cornered on all-wheel drive performance luxury vehicles, Audi’s new S4 sold out almost immediately in a period when the European makes had difficulty moving their expensive wares.
But the Type 44 still held one advantage over its replacement; an optional fifth door. While the Avant version of the new 100 was available immediately, there was no range-topping S4 wagon brought here. That was finally remedied with the relaunch of the now renamed S6 Avant for 1995. With smoothed out bumpers, revised passenger mirror, rolling changes such as new Speedline Avus 6-spoke wheels replaced the Fuchs that the S4 wore, and headrests became closed. There were more changes with the ‘95.5’ model; the infrared remote locking became radio frequency and the B-pillar receiver disappeared; so, too, did the option to lock the rear differential yourself, as Audi opted to work in an electronic differential lock utilizing the ABS speed sensors rather than a physically locking rear end.
These were really only minor changes to the recipe, which at its roots remained a fan fantasy. The traditional inline-5 that had hung out of the nose of the high-end Audis was still there, with its dual-cam head augmented by electronic fuel injection and electronic boost control.…
Friday, the stellar low-mileage, significant history and great condition 1985 Audi Quattro I wrote up this past week sold for $81,400. It’s definitely a signal that there’s been more interest in the mid-80s Audi market in the past few years, as finally these cars get a bit of sunlight shone on just how great they are. The problem? There are very, very few good examples left of any mid-80s Audis. Most of the really nice ones are coveted by their owners (this author included) which means they come up for sale infrequently – frankly, there’s not been a reason to sell them up until this point, as no one has been willing to pay a reasonable market value.
But $81,400? I’d wager no one with a 1985 Quattro today has that much invested in theirs. So while I’m sure there will still be a plethora of fans who want to hold on to theirs longer, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the trickle of nice Quattros we’ve seen hit the market over the past two years start to increase.
With that in mind, if you’re a fan of the inline-5 all-wheel drive recipe, you’ve got to turn to ‘lesser’ models, just as the E30 and 911 crowd has. And if you’re a big fan of the original model, there’s only one that makes the most sense – the 1984 4000S quattro.
Back to wagons!
One of the more
captivating baffling options in the used performance wagon market must surely be the C5 Audi. Despite the reputation for 100% metaphysical certitude that they’ll fail – probably catastrophically, they’re fan favorites. Often as a retort to internet commentaries that they’re not reliable, actual owners will chime in, demanding respect and steadfastly assuring the audience that the Allroad’s reputation is undeserved.
‘It’s been 100% reliable!’ they’ll insist.
Of course, the recipe to actually make it reliable involves major reworking of the engine and suspension. And, sometimes the electronics, too. On top of that, it turns out that various people’s definition of ‘reliable’ varies greatly – especially for Audi owners. Basically, to be deemed ‘unreliable’, an Audi must first assassinate a major public figure, then make a Star Wars reboot featuring only Jar-Jar Binks, then kneel during the National Anthem (easy to do, as most have failed suspension on at least one corner), and finally when you turn the key the engine does the action sequence out of a Michael Bay Transformer movie. If, and only if, those conditions are met will fanatics finally fail to reply to the assertion that the Allroad just isn’t a reliable car.
But, it’s cool. And so you probably want one, even though you know it’ll bankrupt you. So the smart way to buy an Allroad is to not buy an Allroad:
Weather. It’s today’s weather that makes me instantly think back to my V8 quattro. Here in New England this morning I emerged from my weather-proof cocoon hidden carefully under several layers of blankets to reveal the foot-plus of powdery snow, blowing fiercely with a sustained 35 mph wind, and a temperature hovering around 9. Maybe for you folks in Minnesota that’s a nice Spring day, but I think it’s just brutal. Yet when it occurs, I instantly think back to the car I had that made me relish those conditions. It was my ’93 V8 quattro, without hesitation.
When the mercury dipped below freezing and the roads were covered in snow, that car was simply a monster. Audis certainly have a reputation for being good in the snow, it’s true. But here’s a hint – I’ve owned a lot and driven even more, and they’re not all great in the white stuff (ducks). They’re also very tire-dependent, perhaps moreso than other cars. Because with all-seasons on an Audi, you’ll have no problem going fast in deep snow, but you’ll have quite a few problems turning and more problems stopping.
But I had snow tires on my V8. Tiny little A4 steel wheels overshadowed by the widened flares with tires that look fit for…well, an basic B5 A4 rather than a large executive. When that white stuff fell – look out. It was unstoppable, but not in the bad way I just mentioned. And unlike the terminal understeer some of my other Audis suffered from (I’m looking at you, 200!), all you had to do in the V8 if the nose wasn’t heading where you wanted to was to give it a boot-full of throttle. A tremendous roar would emerge as the 4-cam all-aluminum V8 sprung to life, the multi-plate center differential channeled power towards the back, and the Torsen rear diff limited the slip of the unladen tire.…
Why not kick off the New Year with a few fantastic wagons? Sounds like a good idea to me!
A few years ago, I looked at a pretty tempting bit of forbidden fruit – a C6 Audi S6 Avant. Loaded up with enough tech to employ half of Palo Alto, the C6 moved the concept of the C5 S6 Avant a few notches ahead. The jump from C4 to C5 was 113 horsepower strong, and the next generation nearly matched that. With 95 more horses to net 435, the new C6 had one more gear, more space and even more luxury than the car it replaced. But thanks to very slow sales of the prior generation in the U.S. market, it never came here. Although they’re at least twelve years old now, that means we’re still a solid teenager away from seeing an easily legal import here.
Or are we?
Okay, I’ll admit that we don’t spend a lot of time on pre-War German cars. The why is quite simple; outside of an occasional Mercedes-Benz model, there just weren’t a lot of pre-War German cars exported to the United States. Heck, there just weren’t a lot of pre-War German cars, period.
Contrary to popular belief, German wasn’t a nation of drivers until well after World War II. It was something that Mercedes-Benz and upstart conglomerate Auto Union lamented to a certain then-new German Chancellor by the name of Adolf Hitler. Hitler agreed; he wanted and needed the automobile industry in Germany to prosper to help resurrect the economy. But he also needed German car firms to take to new markets. The results you likely know; Hitler spurred the industry through lowering of automobile taxes, and more notable, the encouragement and funding of international-level automobile racing. It’s one of the few times in history that a government has undertaken full sponsorship of a race effort, and without a doubt it was the most successful and evocative. Should you care to on this blustery and very cold late December evening (at least here in New England, where temperatures are struggling to reach double digits), you can read all about it in my dissertation:
Motorsports Monday Special: Racing to Sell – The ‘Silberpfeil’: Part 6
The result of all of that racing and support of the automobile industry was that both Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union prospered – for a while. The unfortunate side-effect of the buildup for the Spanish Civil War and World War II, along with re-arming several areas of taken from Germany through the Versailles Treaty was that by the late 1930s, automobile production had ceased to accelerate because of artificial shortages of items like metal and rubber. Couple that with the fact that most Germans, though much better off in aggregate following the NSDAP takeover in 1933 than they had been during the Great Depression from 1929-1932, still weren’t very rich.…